A series of rock blasts along Interstate 84 west of Hood River will occasionally delay fall travelers.
Seven blasts will happen about once a week through mid-November, spurring rolling slowdowns near milepost 53.
The explosive work is part of Oregon Department of Transportation’s project building the latest segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, between Wyeth and Lindsey Creek.
ODOT staff did the first blast Thursday— a relatively small test near milepost 53 — to gauge the behavior of the rock before larger blasts take place.
Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesman, said the day before he expected the test to be less “dramatic” than the large blasts planned.
Hamilton said the agency has been scouting locations to put up go-pro cameras to record footage of the full-fledged blasts.
In each event, crews will use a carefully calculated amount of explosives that will have no impact on removal of Eagle Creek fire debris at Shellrock Mountain, a mile west of the trail work. That’s the same work area where eastbound traffic is temporarily squeezed into one lane of westbound I-84 as workers clear debris from the Eagle Creek fire.
The historic highway endeavor involves a bench cut near Lindsey Creek, which requires blasting to create room for the trail in the existing rock slope.
The new 3.3-mile piece of trail, set for completion in fall 2019, begins at Exit 51 off Interstate 84, just west of U.S. Forest Service’s Wyeth Campground, and extends west over rugged terrain to Lindsey Creek, about 12 miles west of Hood River.
The trail is part of the larger effort to reconnect the old U.S. Highway 30 as a paved bike and pedestrian trail from Troutdale to The Dalles. Roughly five unconnected miles of former highway remain.
Rock blasting is a planned step forward in the effort.
Due to the danger of explosives, the slowdowns will create a window where no cars are in the work zone during blasting operations. After the blasts, crews will remove rock debris from I-84 before safely reopening the highway.
Engineers from both ODOT and Western Federal Lands, the construction project manager, are carefully studying the area in order to make any needed modifications to the trail design to safely construct the trail while taking into consideration fire-related hazards.
Blasts will continue into late fall. Exact dates will be announced in advance of each incident.